Federal Reserve paid government a record $98.7 billion in 2014, reflecting big balance sheet

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WASHINGTON — The Federal Reserve announced Friday that it paid the federal government a record $98.7 billion in 2014, a payment that reflects the central bank's earnings from holdings of Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities purchased to keep long-term interest rates low to boost the economy.

The 2014 payment is up 24 percent from a 2013 payment of $79.6 billion and is higher than the previous record of $88.4 billion paid in 2012.

The Fed is funded from interest earned on its portfolio of securities. After covering its expenses, the Fed pays the remaining amount to the Treasury Department. Those payments have surged in recent years, reflecting three rounds of bond purchases the Fed made to lower interest rates and boost economic growth following the Great Recession.

Fed payments averaged $28.4 billion in the three years before 2008, but since then the Fed's bond purchases have increased its balance sheet to nearly $4.5 trillion, a four-fold increase since the financial crisis hit.

In October, the Fed ended its third round of bond purchases but announced it would maintain its current level of holdings by re-investing the bonds when they mature. It said it would not start trimming its holdings until after it began to boost short-term interest rates, something most economists don't expect to occur until mid-year.

In releasing a preliminary accounting of its finances Friday, the Fed said that it had $101.5 billion in net income last year and that this amount was derived primarily from $115.9 billion in interest income on its securities.

The Fed said it had operating expenses of $3.6 billion last year. Those expenses included $711 million for the cost of producing and issuing the nation's currency and $563 million to fund the operations of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the agency created by the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010 to serve as a watchdog on how financial institutions deal with consumers.

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